An article on the corruption and ineptitude of the Metropolitan Police's Drug Related Violence Intelligence Unit and the crack cocaine trade. From Black Flag #212 (1997)
Content warning: sexual violence, rape.
On 10th July 1997 a Jamaican national, Eaton Green, lost his battle to avoid deportation to Jamaica. Green's counsel, in seeking to resist a deportation order, had argued that Green, a police informer serving six years for armed robbery, had been told by a Metropolitan Police intelligence officer that he would be "protected".
The High Court judge, Mr Justice Jarrett, ruled that the Home Office was not bound by any such undertaking. Eaton Green's original trial, for a robbery in Nottingham, attracted a flurry of media attention because of the revelation that he had carried out the robbery and dealt crack and run a South London protection racket, while operating as an informer, and further, that Green's handlers (in particular PC Steve Barker) had full knowledge of his activities and attempted to protect him from arrest and prosecution by Nottingham police.
The line adopted by the media in relation to this, and subsequent revelations about "Yardie" informers, was that good "street cops" under pressure, under resourced and unsupported, had bent rules to try to effectively tackle a "Yardie" crime wave. The main proponent of this line is a Guardian journalist, Nick Davies. "How the Yardies Duped the Yard" was the headline of an article he wrote on 3/2/97.
Whether Davies believes what he writes is open to question. The articles themselves read like a damage limitation exercise drafted by Scotland Yard's press office. Their central proposition, though, does not stand up to examination. They do not fit with the facts.
In his 3rd February article, Davies opens with
"Ten years ago, Scotland Yard realised that organised criminals from Jamaica - the Yardies - were moving into London. By 1987 they were pumping crack cocaine into black housing estates and establishing their control with terrifying violence. The response from police was chaotic and pathetic. A 1993 official report warned that ‘unless there is a consistent, aggressive and long-term strategy", drug related crime would soar.’"
In fact, Scotland yard's "yardie" strategy stems from a meeting in 1989 between UK police officers and Robert Stutman, then head of the New York office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in which he warned that most crack dealing in the US was controlled by two ethnic groups - Dominicans and Jamaicans - and that these gangs were determined to engineer a "crack explosion" in the UK. Up until 1989, Yard policy had been in the hands of Roy Ramm, who stated soon after his appointment in 1987
"I'm absolutely convinced that there is no such thing as a black mafia or black Godfather operating in this country."
In 1988 armed police raided the New Four Aces club in Dalston to target suspected Yardie gang dealing in cocaine. The raid netted £6,000 worth of cocaine - not a significant quantity given that a kilo of coke carries a street value of about £160,000. Further Metropolitan Police figures for 1989 show 58 grams of crack being seized in the whole year, compared to 331 kilos of heroin, 424 kilos of cocaine and 50,000 kilos of cannabis.
In consequence of this, for all the apocalyptic proclamations of the likes of Stutman, police units like Operation Lucy were in fact wound down. The journalist Jim Davison, a former Sunday Times writer, and like Nick Davies, a proponent of the "Yardie" myth, reports a discussion with Roy Ramm at the time as follows:
"It is a loose association of violent criminals bent on making profits from drugs and then spending them as quickly as possible", he (Ramm) said.
Unlike the Mafia or the Colombian cartels, the gangs opted for a "little and often" method of importation rather than large scale smuggling operations. The end result of this is, as Davies reports, a Yardie Squad set up and killed off within six months in 1990, and the establishment of Operation Dalehouse in 1991, to target what the Squad Commander DS John Jones (who I'm sure would throw his hands in the air in Hendon-shaded outrage if numbered as a racist) called "a fairly wide-based criminal fraternity of black British people." So successful were they that this squad also wound up in November 1992.
Davies throws up a smokescreen around the reality of Operation Dalehouse. He writes that it
"made 274 arrests often for attacks on black victims. John Jones feared that part of the problem was that black victims of crime attracted less press attention, and therefore tempted the policy makers at Scotland Yard to ignore them. And all the time that the generals at Scotland Yard were ordering their foot-soldiers to retreat, there were more Yardies flowing into London."
In truth Operation Dalehouse did make 274 arrests, but of these only 25 were charged with serious criminal offences, and the Sunday Times journalist Davison concedes the squad met with a "lack of co-operation from the local community."
The end result was that by 1993, according to Davies, his heroes were reduced to
"a hard core of half a dozen detectives and immigration officers who were still trying to tackle the Yardies. They had no office and no facilities and were reduced to using the bar of a small pub in Southwark where... they swapped intelligence and tried to cobble together a strategy.... officers had been forced to spend their own money to fund operations."
It's here that Davies' argument begins to fall apart. Soon after pleading poverty on the anti-Yardie squad's behalf, he reveals that the Drug Related Violence Intelligence Unit (DRVIU) (which Davies snidely notes was so named to avoid triggering complaints of racism) ran an informer code-named Andrew Gold who was able to live a life of indulgence,
“driving around in a Golf GTI, eating expensive meals, drinking fine wines, playing golf, making endless transatlantic phone calls and sleeping in a luxury furnished flat with a view of the Thames - all supplied at the British taxpayers expense."
Not bad for an outfit that Davies had earlier told us was reduced to running its operations form a pub back room at its own expense.
Davies provides details of three Yardies informers run by one SO11 linked DRVIU. Andrew Gold, we are told, produced a report on the Yardies in London which contained no useable new intelligence, at a cost of more than $45,000, before returning to Jamaica in January 1994.
Eaton green carried out armed robberies and ran protection rackets under the protection of the unit. The DRVIU cannot deny that they protected Green. Cecil Thomas and Rohan Thomas came into the UK on March 28th 1993 on false passports, to work with Green. An immigration officer who worked with the DRVIU, Brian Fotheringham, secured residence rights for Green after he married a British national whose child he claimed he'd fathered, even though the child's date of birth made clear that the women in question had been pregnant for four months before she met Green.
At Green's robbery trial, DRVIU officers made illegal approaches to both the Crown Prosecution Service and the trial judge to try to protect Green. From May 1994, Fotheringham and PC Steve Barker ran another informer, Delroy Denton, who had agreed to work for the SO11-linked team following his arrest after a raid on the Atlantic pub in Brixton. Immigration's initial assessment of Denton was as a "dangerous Jamaican criminal, given 16 years in Jamaica for firearms/aggravated burglary offences."
Following the intervention of Fotheringham and Barker, Denton was back on the streets. On 19th December 1994, Denton raped a 15 year old schoolgirl. On 1st February 1995 the CPS dropped a rape charge against him on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Fotheringham and Barker continued to run Denton, who by this stage had acquired a reputation as a psychotic, who Davies concedes fantasised about "how he would like to tell a man and a woman that he was going to kill them, then order them to stay and have sex, and then when the man was too scared to perform, he would rape the woman himself before he blew out both their brains".
In April 1995, Denton entered a flat in Brixton and raped and stabbed to death a 24 year old mother of 2, Marcia Lawes. Denton was charged with murder on 29th June 1995. On 29th October 1995 the CPS again dropped the charge because of "insufficient evidence".
The Number Five Area Major Investigation Pool detectives investigating Denton contacted Fotheringham and advised him of the informer’s status as an illegal immigrant. Fotheringham refused to act. Barker, with full knowledge of senior SO11 officers, continued to meet Denton. In July 1996, following further AMIP work, Denton was jailed for life. Nick Davies argues that the DRVIU was starved of "power and leadership" and in consequence, front-line officers, with falling morale, committed errors in the field. "In the background, Scotland Yard's policy makers blocked a series of anti-Yardie initiatives which had been proposed by front-line officers." This is bullshit.
Whatever Davies and the media management teams at Scotland Yard are trying to conceal, the chronology of their cover story makes no sense. The DRVIU was, we are told, set up following recommendations from Detective Chief Superintendent (now deputy Assistant Commissioner) Ray Clark. Clark made 35 recommendations and delivered a report which concluded
"It has been made abundantly clear by all I have spoken to that unless there is a consistent, aggressive and long term strategy to deal with Jamaican criminals in London, there will be ever and sharply increasing incidents of murder, violence, drug related crime and crack availability."
Davies would have it that "the policy makers at Scotland Yard then side-lined a substantial number if Clark's 35 recommendations", and things then began to go wrong.
But Eaton Green was arrested on July 8th1993, only 2 days after Clark signed his report and BEFORE the DRVIU was officially established. Both Eaton Green and Andrew Gold (with his $45,000 budget) were being run by Scotland Yard officers before Clark delivered his report. Green and Gold were only able to remain in the UK due to the manoeuvres of immigration officers like Brian Fotheringham. If Scotland Yard policy indeed led to the "almost complete breakdown of the Metropolitan Police strategic response (to Yardie crime) and of the formal intelligence gathering and development structure" and if the anti-Yardie squad was really reduced to a Southwark drinking club, how and why were the resources to run Gold and Green obtained? If Barker and Fotheringham had already overseen Eaton Green's crime spree of their own initiative, and with a PR disaster and the souring of relations between the Yard and Nottingham CID the chief results, why accept Clark's report at all?
Whatever the reason, we can be sure it wasn't to stay a Yardie controlled crack epidemic. Any balanced examination of the drug scene in the UK would suggest that Ramm's "little and often" assessment of Yardie drug dealing activity remains correct. Jamaica Perera, from the Centre for Research on Drugs and Health, noted in a recent report on dealers in Kings Cross that all the dealers revealed their original supplies of crack came from white criminal families in Bermondsey. In 1988, Eddie Richardson was gaoled for the importation of 2 tonnes of cannabis and 153.8 kilos of cocaine - to a street value of £43 million, linked to the Cali cartel. The operation involved connections and communications, bank accounts and front operations between Britain and Bangkok.
More recently a joint police/customs operation Operation Crayfish resulted in the conviction for importation of Curtis Warren, a mixed race Liverpudlian, "The Mr Big's Mr Big" as the Observer described him, who made the Sunday Times list of Britain's 500 richest citizens, and has alleged links with the Cali cartel. (There are many aspects of the surveillance operation which led to Warren's arrest and conviction, not least the procuring of drug buys by undercover cops, which give cause for concern, and an appeal is pending).
Vincent Ruggiero, a reader in criminology at Middlesex University, in his survey "Brixton, London: A Drug Culture without a Drug Economy" noted the clear absence in areas of south London targeted by the DRVIU - Brixton, Clapham, Peckham - of the money laundering and investment in legal business that illustrate a sophisticated, expanding drug economy. Quoted in The Guardian on 15/7/96, Ruggiero observed "The profits of the drug economy are nowhere to be seen in inner-city London areas." The major suppliers did not generally live in these heavily policed areas but in "respectable, affluent, white, areas."
The DRVIU seems, from all the reports of its activities to date, to do nothing but run informers. It is fair to say that street crime of the kind the DRVIU allege is committed by the Yardie gangs usually is contained by more obvious police methods - surveillance, stop and search, interviewing of witnesses, etc.
In his book "Gangsta", John Davison details the operational methods of Operation Dalehouse;
"a combination of intense surveillance and computer analysis.. large numbers of ‘spins’, both looking for guns and to accumulate intelligence from interviewing suspects and analysing sheaves of their documents. Names and numbers in address books were particularly fruitful, as were numbers on itemised mobile phone bills, fed into a computer and cross checked with all dedicated Yardie databases in the Met, a detailed pattern of connections were built up, aliases and street names were unscrambled and addresses targeted."
All standard operational routines. The protracted use of informers, however, suggests not the monitoring and containment of crime, but its procurement. Research carried out by Colin Dunningham of Durham University and Clive Norris of Hull University notes that
"the most effective informers are actively involved in crime themselves and one consequence is that their handlers frequently turn a blind eye to offences committed by their informers, leaving numerous detectable crimes unsolved." (The Role of the Informer in the Criminal Justice System, 1996).
The Guardian's regular crime correspondent, Duncan Campbell, has written
"many defendants, particularly in drug cases, claim that the main player in trafficking operations is often acting at the behest of his handler and that the crimes would not have taken place without their encouragement. A number have claimed that the police handlers encourage much larger deals than would have taken place or of Class A rather than a Class B drug, with cannabis smugglers being urged to move to ecstasy." (30/4/96)
The particular history of the Yardie gangs may well make them especially susceptible to procurement by the state. Gangs linked to the right-wing Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) were covertly armed in the 1970s as a means of destabilising the social democratic Peoples National Party government of Michael Manley.
CIA involvement in the arming of the JLP-linked gangs was revealed by the former agent Philip Agee. By the end of the 70s, JLP and PNP politicians bought gunmen as a means of sustaining political influence and handing out jobs and favours. After the 1980 election in Jamaica which brought the CIA stooge Edward Seaga to office, Jamaica became a sweatshop for American manufacturers, with Nike paying 20 cents an hour to handpicked cheap labour. Seaga turned the police and army onto the gun gangs whose expansion he'd overseen. By the mid 80s, the Americas Watch human rights monitoring group estimated that one third of the island's homicides were committed by the police. The gangs moved to New York and Miami, and many of them became street soldiers for the Cali cartel.
Given the posses origins, their attitude to the state was necessarily more ambiguous than was the case with other criminal gangs, and informers and supergrasses have a long history within the posses.
Eaton Green was recruited in 1991 following his arrest by Steve Barker for a minor traffic offence. During his time with SO11 he provided 168 intelligence reports on Yardie-related activity (at £1000 a time). On the back of this, Barker went from being a bent Brixton cop to a big fish at the Yard. John Davison and Nick Davies would argue that
"in order to combat the bad men the police need bad men on their side - and in some respects the badder the better."
But according to the Clark report, the new unit was established to combat "sharply increased incidents of murder, violence, drug-related crime and crack availability." The reality is that the unit clearly and deliberately managed such incidents.
Again, if the anti-Yardie work of Scotland Yard had been stepped down to almost nothing prior to Clark's report, why were Barker and his associates spending thousands on informers and why did Barker go to Jamaica in the summer of 1993, at a time when, according to Davies, "officers had been forced to spend their own money to fund operations"? Why was the unit set up despite the Eaton Green fiasco?
Any answers to these questions are necessarily speculative, but it's clearly the case that the answers Nick Davies and Scotland Yard would like us to swallow won't do.
What if money was channelled covertly to officers like Barker while the official monitoring of Yardie gangs was stepped down? What if this was done because publicly accountable expenditure was not justifiable on the basis of the evidence of the real extent of the Yardie gangs' involvement in crack dealing, but that infiltrators of the Yardie gang served some other purpose? What if, when the shit hit the fan the best form of defence was seen by the Yard as attack - to blame a combination of politicians over-sensitivity to complaints of "racism" and inept "policy-makers" for the mess, and propose as a solution the formalisation of the covert activities which had led to the mess in the first place?
Even if any of the above speculation makes sense, the question remaining to be answered is - why?
In an article in The Guardian of 15/7/96, Mark Olden interviews a Ladbroke Grove crack dealer named Eric. In answer to the question "What about the police?", Eric replies
"when we were out on the streets, we paid. When we were visited, we paid. Some of the gear I've had taken off me, I can't swear to it, but I'm sure it's back out there within weeks."
Media hype over crack epidemics in the US resulted in a "War on Drugs" which allowed parts of urban America to be under permanent police siege while drug rehabilitation projects were closed due to cutbacks. under the guise of anti-gang activity, the LAPD has compiled a "gangbangers" register which lists more suspects than there are black and latino youth in LA!
The LAPD carry out semi-permanent community occupations, "narcotic enforcement zones", which serve a dual purpose of whipping up middle class fears of crime, which serve as a useful justification for directing more resources towards policing, while justifying the virtual lockdown of working class communities. Equally, the containment of drugs and drug related crime within working class areas effectively serves to divide and to pacify working class communities.
The US anti-drugs activist, Clarence Lusane, in his book "Pipe Dream Blues" asserts:
"In numerous black communities, police departments have launched what are essentially full scale military assaults. With the logistics of the kind usually reserved for invasions of other nations, police raid black neighbourhoods weekly...The proliferation of hard drug use in these communities plays the dual role of social control and economic delusion. A drugged out community, pacified, subdued, and bent on self-destruction, is not going to rise up against the white corporate power structure. The youth of these communities, who are most likely to rebel, are at the centre of the drug epidemic and the government sponsored drug war."
If police strategy is in reality about the confinement of crime within working class areas; if, whether for political purpose of private gain, some police are actively involved in the drug trade in inner cities, then, far from being an embarrassment, the Eaton Greens of this world are doing exactly what they're paid to do, and the only embarrassment comes from the public disclosure of such activities.
It couldn't happen here? Maybe not; but consider, finally, the following two points:
1. According to HM Customs & Excise 89% of all drugs aimed at the UK market get past them and the police. If the police and customs aren't involved in the drug trade the figure is meaningless, just a guess from the number of port/street seizures per annum. So, either police/customs expenditure is based on nonsensical guesswork, or, to state that 89% get past them, the Customs & Excise must have knowledge of, and control of, drug traffic in the UK.
2. Steve Barker is still operationally active with the SO11-linked unit. He likes to brag that he's been nicknamed John Wayne. It's fair to say that someone who's overseen an armed robber, a rapist and a murderer and a $45,000 con-artist as informants wouldn't normally have been sitting pretty at the Yard. There can only be one reason why "John Wayne" is still running his show. There are more Eaton Greens and Delroy Dentons out there, and Barker is still needed to handle them.